When two of the best volleyball teams in the Northwestern Conference took center stage Tuesday, it was anyone’s guess at what would happen.
After four thrilling games played until the very last points, it was Fred T. Foard getting the better of St. Stephens. The Lady Tigers handed the Lady Indians their first conference loss, 26-24, 25-20, 20-25, 26-24.
“Holy cow,” said Foard coach Alison Yount. “There are no words. Cardiac arrest. I think I had a heart attack about 17 times on the bench, at least.”
The Lady Tigers (10-4, 4-1) took a two-game advantage, but had to fight for both wins.
Tied 24-24 in game one, it took kills by Morgan Smith and Chelsea Turner to give the Lady Tigers a 1-0 lead.
A 7-0 run in the second game carried Foard from an 11-8 lead to an 18-8 tally.
St. Stephens (8-5, 3-1) clawed back with a furious rally in the game, but the Lady Tigers survived to take the 2-0 advantage.
Attempting to inspire her team to win three-straight games and the match, Lady Indians’ coach Denise Mullins gave her team one message.
“We told them that they could do it, that their endurance would show through and to hang tough,” Mullins said. “We had beaten teams that we expected to play harder than this. We played it one point at a time.”
The comments by their coach fired up the Lady Indians, allowing them to pull ahead 11-6 in the third game.
St. Stephens sustained that distance throughout the game, holding on for the 25-20 win.
Yount was distraught about her team’s chances at that point.
“Knowing our history, I was concerned quite a bit,” she said. “We did job on Saturday of fighting back against Newton-Conover. I know they had it in them to fight. It’s just mental.”
Attempting to either win the match or stay alive, both teams battled in the third game with the biggest lead being a mere three points.
The game was tied in the late stages, 22-22, with both team’s nerves on edge, but a late timeout allowed Yount to talk to her players one last time.
“I told them there wasn’t going to be a fifth game,” Yount said. “Play like this is your last game. That’s how they played.”
Remaining tied at 24-24, miscommunication by St. Stephens and a block by Foard gave the Tigers two points and the match.
Mullins’ team will try to rebound Thursday in another big in-county game at Hickory.
“The girls have great spirit,” she said. “They’ll come back Wednesday, be ready to practice and give it 110 percent. Thursday, we are going to Hickory. They better look out.”
Fighting off the Lady Indians on the road, the Tigers prepare to try and defend their home turf the next time these two teams play on Oct. 13.
“Traditionally, we beat them at home and they beat us at home,” Yount said. “We’ve got to change that this year.”